We’ve all had to adjust to a new reality in recent weeks — a reality that affects our economy and businesses on a daily basis. Companies have responded by changing themselves, and quickly. From retooling and reorganizing to relocating entire workforces, the companies that have been able to react the quickest will be those in the best position to prosper — regardless of what the future holds. In fact, it’s likely that some brands will unlock tremendous value as a result of their sudden adaptation to this new reality. I have no doubt that some organizations will emerge from this downturn with firmer footing than prior to the crisis.
Creating Something Better than Before
When it comes to this global pandemic, contact centers pose a unique set of challenges. News of outbreaks within call centers was a part of the COVID-19 story from very early on. Luckily, ours is an industry full of very bright and very capable leaders. In short order, Work-At-Home (WAH) became the industry’s mantra, with hundreds of thousands of managers, team leaders and frontline staff shifting from office to home.
An effective WAH strategy comes with some inherent advantages. Aside from the obvious financial advantages for both organizations and employees, WAH programs are often associated with increased morale and productivity. Decentralization can also help shed risk and strengthen continuity plans.
While some companies are still in the midst of a shift to WAH, others have already emerged on the other side. Instead of asking themselves, “How are we going to make this shift?” they’re asking, “How are we performing in this new reality?” At this point, forward-thinking managers should assume WAH is here to stay, at least in the near- to midterm, if not longer. This means it’s prudent to start taking the long view and start thinking about the operational aspects of WAH, including the following topics and questions.
Performance Monitoring — Do we have adequate insight into program/agent performance?
Customer and Employee Impact — How has this shift impacted customers and employees?
QA and Coaching — Do we have the right tools and processes in place to strengthen our staff?
Program and Process Validation — Are our solutions working as intended?
Performance Improvement — What are the opportunities to improve the customer experience, enhance customer and employee satisfaction, and drive efficiency?
By focusing on these and other keys areas, program managers can help ensure recent change isn’t just a reaction to the current crisis, but a valued asset for the future.
Generating Value for the Wider Organization
Companies shouldn’t settle for making an efficient shift to WAH but should focus on what WAH optimization might mean for improving customer satisfaction and operating efficiencies. The quality control and continuous improvement principles of Lean Six Sigma are highly applicable to the business of customer care, and performance management systems like the COPC Customer Experience Standard can drive programs to new levels of customer satisfaction and efficiency. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AI-powered solutions are also becoming increasingly attractive. Successful implementation of these and other emerging technologies still pack a punch in terms of competitive advantage. Ultimately, organizations have to strike a delicate balance between averting an existential crisis and continuing to make progress on longstanding initiatives. Keeping your focus on improvement of the customer experience will lead to a more efficient contact center with reduced costs. Given the uncertainties that lie ahead, maximizing performance on a stretched budget will be a part of every organization’s playbook.
Adapting to Help
Like other organizations, ours has devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy adapting to the current business climate. The question that has been our constant guide during this process has been, “How can we best help our clients succeed, both in the immediate and long term?”
The first thing we knew we needed to do was remain accessible, both in terms of our people and services. Therefore, the first task we set ourselves upon was the virtualization of a host of services. This effort has encompassed our entire suite of services — from Customer Experience Consulting through certifying organizations to the COPC family of Customer Experience Standards. We’ve also enhanced our slate of renowned CX training courses, adapting all of our In-Person courses to a Live Virtual format. We’re now delivering public and private CX training courses virtually via video conferencing, connecting instructors with students and students with each other, while facilitating engaging group discussions and team-based case work.
Finally, we’ve been lending our expertise to organizations that have been transitioning to WAH operations. We offer a number of services in this area including guidance in program design, deployment and ongoing management. We’re also busy providing clients with services to help optimize existing WAH programs, both in maximizing the customer experience and improving efficiencies, which lead to performance improvement and increased ROI.
An Industry that’s Always Up for a Challenge
In all my years in this industry, I’ve learned that CX professionals are a special breed. We’re innovative and resourceful. We’re tireless workers in times of need. And we’re always customer focused. While the challenge is immense, I believe that we, as an industry, are up for the task. We’ll continue to find ways to optimize operations and improve the customer experience at every touch point.